Posts Tagged ‘Roero’
Annette Hilberg arrived in the Roero area from Germany 26 years ago and now seems very settled. She and her husband were about to set off for a tasting of old vintages of Barbera at the end of a long day. She was clearly excited about this, which is great to see in those in the trade. The pleasantly chaotic cantina has spectacular views over the land to which this small winery is very committed. Although not technically ‘biodynamic’, they style themselves ‘bio-ergo-dynamica’, putting the ‘work’ into biodynamic you might say. And this work has been put to good effect – these wines are highly individual, notable for their fully ripe fruit and great clarity. Their Nebbiolo d’Alba has regularly received the highest recognition in national awards.
But because we showed interest in local styles, we started in Vareij 2008, made from Brachetto grapes (80%) and Barbera. It could be called Birbet (see Malvira’), but people would expect it to be sweet. It is markedly aromatic, full of ripe fruit (and so tastes sweet), with medium acid and tannin. The small proportion of Barbera grapes is to give the wine better balance through that grape’s acidity. The wine is apparently much appreciated in Northern Europe.
The more typical reds come in two styles. Barbera d’Alba 2008 was perhaps not quite up to expectation so it was declassified but it still yields wonderfully rounded fruit, very drinkable indeed. Meanwhile Barbera d’Alba superiore 2007 has a very complex nose, slightly caramel, then rich ripe fruit with tamed acidity which takes a while to assert itself in the mouth. We tasted this after the Nebbiolo discussed below because of its greater forcefulness.
Nebbiolo Langhe 2007 is made in a traditional style with ageing in large casks. It has a very sweet, perfumed nose, alpine strawberries, very very delicious. Annette adds that it will be excellent in three to four years. By contrast Nebbiolo d’Alba 2007 gets the full 24 months in barrique treatment. Aromas of vanilla and spices are accompanied by bright red fruit, the trademark Hilberg roundedness in the mouth and more tannin.
This German-Italian co-operation is clearly very fruitful, with more than a little help from the phases of the moon and loving attention to the land and cellar.
Just down the road from Malvirà in Canale itself is Monchiero Carbone which is the product of the two named families joining forces in the present husband and wife team. Again, the winery is hidden from view, here underground, below the courtyard of a traditional dwelling. Parts of the cellar are very old, going back a couple of hundred years, and you can still see the steep steps down which the large barrels used to be rolled. The treatment these days is rather more gentle and controlled.
They produce a good Arneis called Recit 2009 (‘little king’ in dialect), which is complex and long, with a slightly vegetal edge and an Arneis cru, Cecu d’la Biunda 2009 (the family name for one of the grandfathers). This grows in very sandy soil – like a beach – and has a strongly mineral character. It is said to age for five to ten years which I am sure it would.
We also tasted three reds with one bonus wine to follow …. Mon Birone, the hill on which the vines grow, is the winery’s Barbera d’Alba 2007. It is made from low yields and three weeks of maceration ensure a deep colour and plenty of fruit, followed by a year and a half in barriques from Burgundy. This hot year has produced a slightly caramelly effect over the deep red fruit, plus a hint of treacle. As in the Langhe, the most sought after wines are from the Nebbiolo grape and there are again two levels, starting with the Roero DOCG Srü 2007. Again slightly pruney fruit, but properly fragrant, with elegant tannins. The sandy soils produce wines which are much more quickly approachable than those of the Langhe.
The top wine is Printi 2006, Roero riserva DOCG, which is aged for three years, two of which are in oak. The result of growing on soils a bit closer to those of the Langhe and traditional wine making is a wine of greater substance, more tannins and greater longevity. Deeper red fruit, some leather and balsamic notes, rich, still highly tannic and good acidity. And all this for €18.
The longevity of these wines was shown by a taste of a bottle of a 1990 which had been opened the day before for some Japanese journalists. This was then a Roero superiore but is the predecessor of today’s Srü. Though slightly oxidised, it had kept its freshness and had developed mushroomy notes, with lovely soft tannins. It had certainly kept its colour well as the photos shows (1990 on the left).
There are some days when everything is just perfect – the spring sunshine, the countryside emerging from a long hard winter, the place, the people. Our visit to Malvirà was one of those days. As with quite a few wineries in Piemonte, the building could be just a rather larger house from the outside. But it does have a fabulous view and, below, most of a new winery in construction beneath the apparent domesticity.
To reach the town of Canale you leave Alba and with it the world famous red wines of the Langhe. The soil changes to a lighter, sandier, composition and it is immediately noticeable that the agriculture is more mixed. There are vines but there is also fruit (especially peaches), animals, ordinary fields, light industry. This is the Roero, home of the important Piemontese white, Arneis, more Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolchetto and some other interesting local varieties. And after the almost uniformly ‘red’ diet of the Langhe, it is refreshing to have excellent whites to taste.
But before we get to the wines, we have to celebrate the weather and the arrival of spring.
Malvirà shares a hillside with the beautiful hotel, Villa Tibaldi, very smart indeed and with a great restaurant.
Tasting on the terrace in the spring sunshine in congenial company is either exactly the thing to do (after all wine is supposed to be pleasurable!) or very unprofessional. There is much more to be written about this subject in another post. But I like to think that you can continue to have some level of objectivity if you concentrate hard to evaluate the wines even in a setting like this. But then I would think that – it’s in my interest.
Malvirà exploits the sandy soils of the Roero for the four good whites which we tasted. Favorita 2009 -Favorita being the same grape as the much more widely known Vermentino – is delicately floral, with quite exotic fruit including a hint of citrus, medium in weight and with good acidity. A good aperitivo. The standard Arneis 2009, 13?, has lovely aromas of white fleshed fruit and is slightly nutty with a bitter element, so typical of Italian whites. The grape has been documented in the area since 1400. This example initially tasted quite low in acidity but that was probably more due to the fullness of the wine with its thirteen degrees of alcohol. Yet more structured is the Arneis from the single vineyard Trinità (2008). 10% of this has done time in French oak with additional richness from stirring the lees. In the mouth the wine is fuller, with more tropical fruit, rounded, very good indeed. Finally in the whites we tasted Treuve 2005, 14?, the three grapes being rather more international in character, Sauvignon Blanc (40%), Chardonnay (40%), Arneis (20%). This has aged well, with a powerful nose of exotic fruit and butter, very rounded, very stylish, impossible to place because of the three grapes used together.
At Malvirà we were very ably hosted by Mollie (marketing) and Evan (right), who came to work with grapes but was currently painting parts of the new winery – such is life. Evan is English – you can just about see the Majestic logo on his shirt – and talked us through the wine making process. We also got the chance to meet owner Roberto over part of lunch. They genuinely seem a very happy crew.
Over lunch we tasted the reds in quick succession. San Michele 2006, Barbera d’Alba, spends 20 months in barriques, one third of which are new. It has a good perfumed fruit, a mid weight Barbera with the characteristic good acidity. Langhe Nebbiolo 2006 is aged for a total of three years and has the characteristic cherry perfume. We noted the paleness of the wine – apparently Nebbiolo is even paler than usual in good years such as this. There is nothing pale however about Renesio, Roero riserva DOC 2005. This Nebbiolo spends two years in wood and another two in bottles before being released. Despite its riserva status, it’s very drinkable, with that characteristic combination of cherry and oak-related aromas.
We finished with a local speciality, a version of the lightly alcoholic sweet wine, typically made from Moscato grapes but here from the red grape, Brachetto. It is sold as Birbet, characteristic of the Acqui area, and very attractive it is too with its gorgeous colour, bright red fruit, sweetness, very slightly almondy and under 6? of alcohol.
Many thanks to Mollie and Evan for their hospitality and time. The standard Arneis is available from Waitrose – which of course is where I came across it first. Malvirà is one to follow, even when the sun doesn’t shine.
It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it! Lunch at Villa Tibaldi.